Week 1 - D.I.Y. Party
29th May 2015 By Mark Enser
Thursday the 7thof May and the United Kingdom went to the poll to elect a new government. The only thing we knew for sure when we went into the polling booth was that no government would take over all control. There would be another coalition of some sort. Labour might team up with SNP or the Conservatives with the Lib Dems. No one knew which way it would go.
We woke up Friday morning to a Conservative majority. The polls had been wrong. Very wrong. Locally the MP, Norman Baker, had been voted out. Punished it would seem for going into an unpopular coalition. He had been replaced by Maria Caulfield who had last stood to be an MP in Wales before being parachuted in by central office to fight this marginal seat.
Here in Seaford our minds turned to the local elections. These looked exciting. After a few years of trouble in the Town Hall there were several independent candidates standing. People who had served their community for years and wanted to represent the people of their town. We were sure they were going to get in. Surely everyone knew what they had done for Seaford?
The results came in. There was a gasp. Not one independent had a seat. Instead people had voted for their favourite national party. How had this happened? Why had people no one had heard of received more votes than people we all knew had served Seaford so well?
Then we saw. The problem was us. Those of us who said we all knew. We all meant those who took an interest in local politics. We all meant those of us on various social media sites. We all didn't mean the people who vote. Talk to people out there about the Town Council and you hear confusion and apathy. This isn't the fault of the people. It is the fault of those who represent us and who fail to engage us. Many people don't know what the local town council do or what they are responsible for. They don't know who represents them or how. How would they? Why should they?
One Ward hadn't declared. Sadly a candidate for East Ward had passed away just before the polls opened and a by-election would have to be called. A group of us convinced some of the unsuccessful independents to stand again in East Ward. We met in a local pub to thrash out a strategy.
First thing we decided was that the campaign needed to happen on the street and not on Facebook. More door knocking, more leaflets, more discussion. The second thing that we needed was to register as a minor party. The big lesson from this election is that people won't vote for an independent on the ballot paper. We needed a sense of identity that people could trust in. A name and a logo but maintaining the independence of each candidate. This would prove a difficult square to circle.
The next day we started discussions online. First order of business a name! We liked something with voice but this could sound too much like the excellent Seaford Residents Voice. We liked local but it has sinister League of Gentlemen overtones. We soon settled on Independents for Seaford.
Next up was a logo. In this we struck gold. A member of our group is Neil Smith from Seaford Web Design and he soon took our ideas and sprinkled star dust on them. Between us we settled on the idea of using our initials ifS and placing them on an abstract image of our iconic Seaford Head. Take a look. We love it. Our strapline to sum up what we are for soon followed with -Your voice for our town. Which words should go in bold is an ongoing debate. I know.
All of this happens in the first day. By day two we have an outline party constitution, a press release being formed and endlessly re-worded, leaflet designs underway and plans for t-shirt designs and canvassing. We had other people looking into opening an account and Neil building a website. We were looking at other independence movements like those in Frome who we would had been extremely successful in revolutionising local politics and improving their town. Registering a minor party is quick and simple. A few details to fill in online. Some money to find and we are away. We were just hoping we got the registration confirmed in time for the by-election.
Then we paused. What were we?
We knew that national political parties were a problem in local politics. We knew we wanted to be different and avoid the infighting and point scoring we saw in these groups. We wanted to be different. However we were registered as a party. We had the outline of a constitution. We were running for town council. How could we keep councillors independent if they were in a party? This proved something of a turning point in that first week.
After what felt like days of talking back and forth (but was in fact a few hours) we reached a consensus. Independents for Seaford is to be a movement that fights for Seaford. We will campaign to make our community even better. To do this we will support independent candidates for the Town Council who share our broad aims (have a look at FAQs on the website). Once elected these candidates are completely independent of the party. They do what they wish and vote how they wish. They will your voice in our town.
We have a mission. We have a way to achieve it.
Week one accomplishments:A name, logo, strapline, we are registered, we have a great team, we have a website put together, we have elected a chair and nominations secretary.
Week one challenges: Deciding how to be a party while still preserving the independence of the candidates. Making decisions collectively. Fighting the urge to shout our plans from the roof tops.
Week one to-do list:Finalise leaflet design and get printing, produce content for the website, produce a way of working that allows quick decisions and preserves independence.